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But ours protective shield might soon enter a revolution that could threaten the stays on Earth.

You are watching: How often do the poles shift

Our modern method of life can cease come exist if the poles flipped. Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: Did you understand that planet has two North Poles? There"s the geographic North Pole, which never changes. And there"s the magnetic north Pole, i beg your pardon is always on the move. And also right currently it"s moving quicker than usual.

Over the past 150 years, the magnetic north Pole has actually casually wandered 685 miles across northern Canada. However right currently it"s gyeongju 25 miles a year come the northwest.

This can be a sign that we"re around to experience something humans have never seen before: a magnetic polar flip. And when this happens, that could influence much an ext than just your compass.

Alanna Mitchell: Right now on the surface ar of the planet, it looks like it"s just a bar magnet. Our compasses are simply pointing come one pole in ~ a time because there"s a dominant two-pole system.

But sometimes, earth doesn"t constantly just have a solitary magnetic North and also South Pole. Evidence says that, for hundreds to thousands of years in ~ a time, our earth has had four, six, and even eight poles in ~ a time. This is what has happened as soon as the magnetic poles flipped in the past. And when it happens again, it won"t be good news for humans.

Now you might think, eight poles should be far better than two. Yet the truth is that: multiple magnetic fields would fight each other. This might weaken Earth"s protective magnetic field by approximately 90% during a polar flip.

Earth"s magnetic field is what shields united state from harmful space radiation i m sorry can damage cells, reason cancer, and fry digital circuits and also electrical grids. With a weaker ar in place, some scientists think this could expose airplane to higher levels the radiation, making flights less safe.

This could also disrupt the internal compass in many pets who use the magnetic field for navigation. Even more extreme, it might make particular places on the world too dangerous come live. However what exactly will take ar on the surface ar is much less clear than what will undoubtedly take place in space.

Satellites and also crewed an are missions will require extra shielding the we"ll have actually to provide ourselves. Without it, extreme cosmic and also solar radiation will fry circuit boards and also increase the hazard of cancer in astronauts.

Our modern way of life could cease come exist. We understand this due to the fact that we"re currently seeing a glimpse that this in an area dubbed the south Atlantic Anomaly. Transforms out, the direction that a section of the magnetic field deep in ~ this area has currently flipped! and also scientists to speak that"s one factor why the field has been steadily weakening because 1840.

As a result, the Hubble an are Telescope and also other satellites frequently shut under their sensitive electronic devices as they happen over the area. And astronauts top top the International an are Station reported seeing a greater number the bright flicker of irradiate in their vision, thought to be brought about by high-energy cosmic rays the the weaker field can"t hold back.

Since specialists started measuring the Anomaly a few decades ago, it has grown in size and now covers a 5th (20.3%) that Earth"s surface, v no indicators of shrinking anytime soon. This is so excessive that it could be a authorize we"re ~ above the brink the a polar flip, or we may already be in the midst of one!

But scientists remain skeptical, mainly because ...

Mitchell: castle don"t know. The critical time the poles reversed was 780,000 years ago so it"s not choose we have actually a record for this.

Turns out 780,000 year is over dual the time earth usually takes in between flips.

Mitchell: In the previous 65 million years because the critical mass die out there have actually been reversals around every 300,000 years.

So what gives? Well, scientists haven"t figured it the end yet. It"s unnerving come think the our modern means of life — banking, the share exchange, missile tracking, gps — depends on the outcome of other we have the right to neither predict, no one control. One examine went therefore far as to estimate that a single, huge solar storm now could expense the us up come $41.5 billion a work in damages.

And that"s v Earth"s magnetic field at its existing strength. It"s frightening to imagine the devastation a storm would carry to an planet with a magnetic field only 10% together strong.

We might not have the ability to stop a polar flip, yet we can at least start come take measures to minimize the damage. The very first step? figure out what"s walk on v this whacky field.

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On the hunt space the European space Agency"s SWARM satellites, which room collecting the most an accurate data on the stamin of Earth"s magnetic field. Ideal now, they could be our biggest hope for addressing this riddle.